Who’s giving the disadvantaged a leg up?

Interesting graph from the OECD which came with this email to subscribers – I think it’s to journalists, and I’m on it because I’ve sought various reports to write columns on.  I haven’t read the referenced material, but it’s light and predigested so no doubt some enterprising Troppodillians with some time on their hands will do so.


Thought this might be of interest: new OECD analysis of international educational performance reveals that one in three children from poor homes manages to “beat the odds stacked against them to outperform peers from the same socio-economic background and be ranked among the top quarter of students internationally.”

The study, based on the OECD’s PISA maths, science and reading tests of 15-year olds in PISA 2006 and 2009, shows wide differences between countries: Korea, Finland, Japan, Turkey and Canada do best, while students from countries including Austria, Germany and Brazil are among the weakest performers. Among regional education systems, Shanghai-China and Hong-Kong China do the best.

Students’ confidence in their abilities and their attending regular lessons are the key to success, the report finds. Students that believe they will do well in exams do better than less confident students: for example, PISA 2006 revealed that 50% of “resilient” students in OECD countries believed that learning advanced science topics would be easy for them, while only about 40% of disadvantaged low-achievers thought so. In some countries, personal motivation, rather than external motivation such as the prospect of a job or salary, also makes a difference.

Countries take different approaches to ensuring that disadvantaged students spend enough time in class: in the US, for example, compulsory attendance in science class makes a relatively modest improvement in performance for most students, of around 15 score points on the PISA science scale. But among disadvantaged students, that advantage triples to more than 40 points, the equivalent of a full year of schooling. In Australia, the odds that a disadvantaged student who attends a compulsory science course will do better than his peers are four times greater than for a disadvantaged student who does not attend compulsory classes.

“All of these findings suggest that schools may have an important role to play in fostering resilience”, says the report. “They could start by providing more opportunities for disadvantaged students to learn in class by developing activities, classroom practices and teaching methods that encourage learning and foster motivation and self-confidence among students. High-quality mentoring programmes, for example, have been shown to be particularly beneficial. Focusing these activities on disadvantaged students is crucial, as they are the student who are least likely to receive this support elsewhere.”

The report is available at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/17/26/48165173.pdf . The data in Excel is in the attached file.

Postscript: the chart on the right does not square particularly well with this chart from the Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi Commission. In this one NZ has much more unequal results than Oz.


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10 years ago

“Countries take different approaches to ensuring that disadvantaged students spend enough time in class”

Looking at the top of that list, it seems fairly obvious that rather than look at what countries and governments do, we should look at cultural factors that cause individuals to do things to ensure their children spend enough time studying. Notably having annoying parents from East Asia is a clear winner, presumably no matter what the government does or laws they enact.

10 years ago

Interesting and significant divergence between Australian and New Zealand kids. There is a much stronger independent schools sector in Australia.